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Home English Italian hostage killed in US raid against al-Qaeda

Italian hostage killed in US raid against al-Qaeda


Rome, April 23 - Italian hostage Giovanni Lo Porto
was killed in a CIA drone strike in January targeting al-Qaeda
in an area along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan,
the White House said on Thursday.
An American hostage, Warren Weinstein, the 73-year-old head
of a private development firm, was also killed in the operation.
Lo Porto, a 39-year-old aid worker for German NGO Welt
HungerHilfe, was kidnapped in Pakistan in January 2012.
US President Barack Obama took full responsibility for the
operations in which the hostages were killed, the White House
said Thursday.
"The president has given instructions to disseminate the
most information possible," it said.
Obama sent his "deepest condolences" to the families of Lo
Porto and Weinstein, apologising for the incident and "taking
full responsibility" for the deaths, Obama himself said.
The commitment of Lo Porto "reflects the commitment of
Italy, our ally and friend," Obama said.
"Today is a day in which ties between the United States and
Italy are strengthened, two countries that share the same
values", said the US president.
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi voiced "deep pain" over the
death of Lo Porto, who he said had "dedicated his life to the
service of others".
The Italian premier also voiced his condolences to
Weinstein's family.
Renzi was informed of Lo Porto's death by Obama Wednesday
and the government's crisis unit got in touch with his family
before the announcement of his death was made.
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Lo Porto died
"because of a tragic and fatal error by our American allies,
recognised by President Obama" but "the responsibility of his
death and the death of Warren Weinstein is wholly on the
terrorists against whom we confirm Italy's commitment with our
Gentiloni will urgently brief the House at 10 a.m. Friday,
officials said.
The government undersecretary with the intelligence brief,
Marco Minniti, will report to the parliamentary secret-service
oversight body COPASIR Tuesday.
"The American apologies aren't enough," said COPASIR chair
Giovanni Stucchi of the rightwing populist Northern League.
"They'll have to explain and justify the operation," he
Lo Porto was kidnapped together with a German colleague on
January 19, 2012, in Multan on the border between Pakistan and
The Palermo native was abducted with colleague Bernd
Muehlenbeck while working for Welt HungerHilfe on a
reconstruction project in the wake of major flooding in the area
the previous year.
They were taken by four armed men from the building where
they lived and worked.
Muehlenbeck was freed last October 10.
Following his release Muehlenbeck said Lo Porto had been
transferred elsewhere a year previously.
A professor at the London Metropolitan University where the
Italian aid worker studied remembered him as a "passionate,
friendly, open-minded student".
"He told me: 'I'm pleased to have returned to Asia and
Pakistan. I love the people, culture and food in this part of
the world'," the professor said.
Friends in London and NGOs in Italy petitioned for his
release, with the latter urging the Italian government and
newspaper editors to "break the wall of silence".
Al-Qaeda initially claimed but then denied the abduction
and Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban, also
denied holding Lo Porto.
An Italian aid-sector official said on Thursday that
government efforts to free Lo Porto "were far from having
achieved the slightest result".
"We cannot fail to note that evidently the efforts by the
Italian government for his release, beyond official statements,
were far from having achieved even the slightest result",
Voluntary Sector Forum spokesperson Peter Barbieri said.
Barbieri said Lo Porto was the "unwitting victim of a
military operation against al-Qaeda", adding that the aid worker
dedicated his life to humanitarian projects around the world.
"Giovanni was not a fool and was well aware of the risks
that can occur in the work he had chosen and loved: we believe,
however, that he could not imagine losing his life in this way",
Barbieri said.
"Leave me alone with my grief," replied Lo Porto's mother
in the tough Palermo neighbourhood of Brancaccio when told of
her son's death.
"She's distraught, she doesn't want to talk to anyone," a
neighbour and friend told ANSA.
A curt "thanks" from a brother was another reported family
response to Obama's apology.
"Obama has apologized? Thanks", said one of Lo Porto's
brothers when reporters asked him to comment.
According to sources in the Italian government, Renzi
reached out to Lo Porto's mother in a telephone call coordinated
by the foreign ministry crisis team.
"He was my age," Renzi reportedly said to Lo Porto's
Weinstein was director in Pakistan for private development
consultancy J.E. Austin Associates.
He was abducted in Lahore in August 2011 shortly before his
planned return to the US.
Al-Qaeda released a proof of life video of him in December
2013 in which he appealed to Obama for his release.
Aged 73, he lived in Rockville, Maryland.
His family has refused to comment on the news of his death.
US authorities will compensate the families of Lo Porto and
Weinstein, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Obama has ordered a review of drone bombing protocols to
assess whether changes are needed, Josh Earnest added.
Two US members of al-Qaeda are believed to have been killed
in the same area where Lo Porto and Weinstein died, the White
House said.
"Regret and pain must be expressed, but the fight against
terrorism should not stop," and giving news too soon "can be
reckless" Director of Italy's Security Information Department
(DIS) Giampiero Massolo said.
Massolo called the raid an "anti-terrorist action" and
explained that the victims "found themselves in the midst of the
action taking place".
The security director also commented on learning of the
death three months after the raid, saying "The idea of giving
news when you do not have the absolute certainty can be reckless
and, in an area like that one, confirmation checks are complex".

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